More of Barack

from pp. 344 – 345:  Barack meets with his half-brother, Mark.

“Other things move me.  Beethoven’s symphonies.  Shakespeare’s sonnets.  I know —  it’s not what an African is supposed to care about.  But who’s to tell me what I should and shouldn’t care about?  Understand, I’m not ashamed of being half Kenyan.  I just don’t ask myself a lot of questions about what it all means.  About who I really am.”  He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe I should.  I can acknowledge the possibility that if I looked more carefully at myself, I would . . . ”

For the briefest moment I sensed Mark hesitate, like a rock climber losing his footing.  Then, almost immediately, he regained his composure and waved for the check.

“Who knows?” he said.  “What’s certain is that I don’t need the stress.  Life’s hard enough without all that excess baggage.”

We stood up to leave, and I insisted on paying the bill.  Outside we exchanged addresses and promised to write, with a dishonesty that made my heart ache.  When I got home, I told Auma how the meeting had gone.  She looked away for a moment, then broke out with a short, bitter laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“I was just thinking about how life is so strange.  You know, as soon as the Old Man died, the lawyers contacted all those who might have a claim to the inheritance.  Unlike my mum, Ruth has all the documents needed to prove who Mark’s father was.  So of all of the Old Man’s kids, Mark’s claim is the only one that is uncontested.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Gloria’s Fate/ Self’s Fate

Dear blog readers, do you believe in fate?

Self does.

She believes it was fate that brought her here, after all these years in California.  Fate is what guided her.  Yes, some invisible hand drew her here and lifted the scales from her eyes and also put people in her path who were able to help her.

It all began almost two years ago, when self was invited by Karina Bolasco of Anvil to be on a panel of the International PEN conference in Cebu, December 2010.  It was fate that led her to pass by Bacolod instead of heading straight home to Manila.  It was fate, or perhaps all those years in America, and/or all the books she’d written, that nurtured her independence.  Without that independence, she would never have developed the strength and resourcefulness to be where she is now, that gave her the will to fight.

And even during this, her seventh visit to Bacolod in a little less than two years, fate leads her to Daku Balay, and tells her, Woman, the answers are here.  Here in this grand old house that your grandfather, the most ambitious man in the island of Negros, built from nothing.  You, American granddaughter of Lolo Gener, you will fight anyone who says you don’t have a right to be here.  You’ve come full circle now.  Fate brought you to the house of your father’s youth.  Fate chose you.

Self still has a stack of local papers to read through.

On p. 3 of the Oct. 30, 2012 issue of The Visayan Daily Star, there is an article on poor, sick, old ex-President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Gloria used to be self’s economics teacher in high school.  She was very erudite, but not particularly interesting:  So it was quite a shock when self discovered that her economics teacher had become president of the country.

When Gloria was self’s teacher, she looked like a 12-year-old.  She had a round face and short hair.  She was very small.  But, she was also very direct, one of the most direct teachers self ever had, growing up.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Former president Gloria Arroyo refused to enter a plea yesterday on a graft charge that could see her jailed for life, as she appeared in court wheelchair-bound and wearing a neck brace.

Arroyo sat quietly as Judge Efren de la Cruz read the charge that she had plundered 366 million pesos (approx. nine million dollars) in state lottery funds during her time as president from 2001-2010.

*     *     *

Arroyo ended her time in power as one of the country’s most unpopular presidents, amid allegations she had cheated to win elections, embraced feared warlords as allies, and was involved in widespread corruption.

Her successor, Benigno Aquino, won a landslide election after vowing to fight corruption and prosecute Arroyo.

*     *     *

Court resolutions to these cases are expected to drag on for years in the country’s slow justice system.

In pictures, self barely recognizes her.  Why did this vibrant woman turn overnight into this almost unrecognizable invalid?  What happened to her?

Self will finish up with yet another quote from Dreams of My Father, by Barack Obama.  In the passage below, Barack’s aunt Zeituni takes him to seem some relatives who are so destitute that Obama is ashamed for not being able to give more money:

My aunt turned away and, forcing a smile, waved to Auma.  And as we began to walk forward, she added, “I will tell you this so you will know the pressure your father was under in this place.  So you don’t judge him too harshly.  And you must learn from his life.  If you have something, then everyone will want a piece of it.  So you have to draw the line somewhere.  If everyone is a family, no one is a family.  Your father, he never understood this, I think.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

The Continuing Saga of Self in Bacolod

In Dreams From My Father:  A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama writes:

What is a family?  Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me?  Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor?  Or is it something else entirely:  a store of shared memories, say?  An ambit of love?  A reach across the void?

One thing about America:  You make your own family.  It can consist of a cat, a dog, a beloved teacher, a neighbor or neighbors, your best college chums, your editor(s), your publisher(s), your friendly local librarian —  the permutations are bewildering and endless.

Self was in the Daku Balay again.  She even braved the inner sanctum and took pictures of a few of the employees of the family corporation, Genen.

The cutest secretary in the Daku Balay. Today must have been “Casual Wednesday” — all the secretaries were dressed in their regular clothes (i.e., not in their office uniforms)

The secretaries invited self to share their lunch of what looked like chicken fingers. The food came from Jollibee. In all honesty, self could not partake of their modest repast without huge pangs of guilt. They talked about how wonderful it was when, last March, self brought over seven pizzas from Bob’s. It turned out not to be enough.

Self promised to bring over 10 boxes of pizza, next time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Halloween 2012

You don’t really understand power unless you’ve lived in Bacolod.  At least, self didn’t.

America is about privacy.  The suburbs swallow you up, and you become just like everybody else.  John Lee Hooker, the great R & B/ jazz singer, lived in Redwood City, just blocks from self’s home, and she found out only after he died, in 2001.  This deep privacy can be either a comfort or a form of erasure.

Self’s quote of the day comes from Mongol, a movie about the early life of Genghis Khan, directed by Sergei Bodrov.

(BTW, that was one wiiiild movie, dear blog readers!  Borderline cheesy and over-the-top!  Just the kind of movie self thoroughly enjoys!)

Here was one trenchant line:

Do not scorn a weak cub, for he may become a brutal tiger.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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